It was the Toorak Shule sukkah, however, which imparted a real taste of magic. A special structure in the less than spacious grounds of the Synagogue, it had all the sights, sounds and smells that go with a sukkah.
No sponge cake ever tasted as good as the cake in that sukkah. Every year since then I have religiously measured against Toorak whichever Kiddush I happened to attend. Most other places suffer ignominiously by comparison.
In London the Chief Rabbi of the day would be “At Home” during the festival in a magnificent sukkah in the back garden of 85 Hamilton Terrace. Rabbi Brodie’s sukkah was worthy of the Chief Rabbinate, though there were more creature comforts in Rabbi Jakobovits’.
Obviously Chief Rabbi Nathan Marcus Adler died long before my time but it was in his sukkah that the first moves were supposedly taken towards gathering the congregations into the United Synagogue, though my friend Toddy Simons and I discussed more than once whether the traditional story was actually true.
My first London congregation was Bayswater, where a beautifully proportioned brick sukkah with a removable roof stood between the shule and the hall.
Towards the end of the Yom-Tov service the shammas would convey the warden president’s compliments to a chosen congregant, give him the sukkah key (no-one thought of asking a lady even though the ladies’ guild did the work to prepare the Kiddush) and invite him to unlock the sukkah door.
I never found out where they kept the key during the year; otherwise I might have been taken by a fit of impudence and given it to a child to hide away.
In Hampstead the sukkah was in the Synagogue’s undercover car park. We once proved that a car park is legally part of the premises; a prospective bridegroom was in hospital (he really was ill; it wasn’t that the bride had attacked him) and his wedding took place in an ambulance driven into the car park.
We needed official permission to do this and discovered that on a Sunday the Archbishop of Canterbury had power to give emergency rulings about premises for weddings. During the morning the Synagogue Secretary took a taxi to Lambeth Palace, got the Archbishop’s approval and came back in triumph!
For many years my family had their own sukkah, though in London the weather necessitated sitting in the sukkah wearing hats, coats and scarves, and the s’chach had a habit of falling into the soup.
In Sydney for a long period we shared our sukkah with Rev. Gluck’s family and we had a roster system whereby each family had its set time to bring the food down the fire stairs for the sukkah meal.
Now that we are in Jerusalem we have, thank God, a lovely big back balcony and are looking forward to inviting family, friends and shule neighbours to a Yom-Tov meal.
Enjoy the festival, and may the wind and rains be kind to you!